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Historical Society

Hellertown Historical Society To Repair/Restore Hellertown’s First Jail - Remember the song from our younger days - possibly the early fifties - that went something like this…”time you’re a villain, time you’re a thief, time you stole your love from me and now I’m….” well…you get the idea.  Time is what the Society is all about…that is, preservation of all the many items and memories that collectively make up our historical past.

One of those items from our historical past is Hellertown’s first jail.  If today you took a survey of Hellertown residents and asked the question “Where is Hellertown’s first jail located?” you will probably receive either blank stares or a sheepish “I didn’t realize Hellertown’s first jail was still in existence.” Of course if the same question was asked of older, native Hellertonians the percentage of those in the know would probably increase.  

The jail, which is over 100 years old, has an interesting history.  The following is an excerpt from an article written by Alice Lesoravage that appeared in the February 1984 issue of the Morning Call:

Memorials in Lieu of Flowers

We have seen a trend toward families of deceased ones suggesting family and friends send a donation to the Hellertown Historical Society. This is sincerely appreciated by our Society members. Should you have questions concerning “memorials in lieu of flowers” for your loved one, please discuss them with your funeral director. Often the director will arrange for funds to go directly to the Society which relieves this burden for the family. You may also contact the Society at 610-838-1770. The funds received through memorials are used to maintain, refurbish and repair the various buildings, grounds and artifacts within the Society’s possession or these funds may be earmarked for a special purpose. The Society Staff will gladly discuss plans for these funds with you.

April 2022 Board of Directors Meeting

HHS News

The Board of Directors held their regularly scheduled monthly meeting in the Tavern Room April 14, 2022 at 6PM. The purpose of this meeting was the nomination and election of Board of Directors' Officers - President, Vice-President, Treasurer and Secretary.

The Board Officers for the 2022-23 Fiscal Year are President, Stacie Torkos; Vice-President, Larry Sutton; Treasurer, Gilbert Stauffer; and Secretary, Tina Krasnansky.

After the election of officers, the Board moved onto regular business. The Board heard progress on the submission to add the Walnut Street Pony Bridge to the National Registry. Once confirmed, the Board will continue to move toward submission of the Grist Mill and perhaps even the entire Grist Mill site to the National Registry.

Further business discussed were logistics for re-establishing school tours of the site, re-joining the local Chamber of Commerce and Tavern Room use updates.

The Treasurer provided a report for the past two months which was approved by the Board.

The building and grounds are in need of "spring cleaning". The Board plans to schedule a work session in the near future to address this. Certainly anyone wishing to lend some "elbow grease and muscle" would be greatly appreciated. Keep watch for an announcement on this soon.

The Board began preliminary discussion about adding a water wheel to the Grist Mill. The original water wheel has since been discarded at some unknown time. There seems to be no documentation or photographs of the wheel in our collection. The Historical Society would greatly appreciate any such evidence of the original water wheel should someone have it and be willing to share it. Meanwhile the discussion will continue about the feasibility of replacing the wheel with another.

The Board then discussed some upcoming events and the need for planning them - SV Easter Egg Hunt (April 16), the Community Yard Sale (June 4) and Passport to History Day (July 23). More details will be provided when planning continues.

With no further business to be conducted, the meeting was adjourned.

The next monthly meeting of the Board is scheduled for May 12, 2022 at 6PM in the Tavern Room. All members are welcome to attend.

Hellertown’s First Jail Now Ready for Visitors

Hellertown Historical Society planned to clean and restore the Borough’s First Jail in order to preserve its historical value. In 2017, thanks to fundraising efforts and the generosity of a member to provide matching funding, we have been able to accomplish that goal.

The jail had a major cleanup of the site, flooring and support beams replaced, a redesign to the structure with a new hip-style roof installed, new wood ceiling, a reconfigured jail cell installed, replacement of the door and jamb and three feet of river stone landscaping round the building preparing it for visitors.

The jail is located on Laubach Street, the alley behind the 1774 Grille and Tap Restaurant at Main and Penn Streets.  However, this site is not accessible by vehicle as it is narrow and no parking available.  It is best to walk to the site.  Interested visitors should watch for future announcements when the jail will be open for visitation and interior tours.

"Hellertown’s first jail built in 1872 by Thomas R. Laubach, the first chief burgess, is being donated to the Hellertown Historical Society.  It will be the society’s first building acquisition.

The stone jailhouse structure, located just off Penn Street along Silver Creek, is being donated by Elizabeth Hess of Hellertown, widow of the late Howard Hess, a borough mayor who served from 1946 to 1949 and a descendent of Laubach.  Hess, who also served as a Northampton County Commissioner, restored the landmark building and maintained it until his death last July.

The property and approximately 12 by 14 foot structure which served as the town lock-up for 28 years will be deeded to the society after the property is surveyed later this year, according to a society member.  It is believed that the jail, which was replaced by cells in the borough municipal building, was used primarily by transients and others who paid the borough for their stay by working on streets."